As a Professional Organizer sometimes I have the privilege to work one on one with my clients’ children. Sometimes even TEENAGERS !! I know what you might be thinking but I really love organizing teens and they are one of my favorite crowds.
As I was organizing the bedroom with my client’s 14-year-old daughter a few weeks ago, about an hour into our session the mom came in to observe. Her arms crossed, body language expressing so much more than what she was saying, the conversation between mother and daughter took quite an interesting turn.
The daughter and I had been working hard but had little to show for it. From my perspective, we were making quite a progress even though the donation bin barely had anything in it and the trash bag was not that much different. What the mom wanted to see however was a very different picture. After all the room still seemed covered in just useless items.
THINGS GOT INTERESTING
So there came flying the usual “you must get rid of”, “you cannot keep” and “you have too much”. Followed by “why do you need that”, “you never play with those” or “you have to do better than this”. That was it. The typical eye roll followed and the daughter jokingly kicked mom out of the room so we could continue our work.
It got me thinking then.
What is different about a teenager that makes it so hard for some parents to help them get organized?
Why would a 14 year old let me mess with her stuff but not trust her mom to do it?
Well, you ARE a Professional Organizer you might say and the teen has already seen you do YOUR magic in the kitchen the previous session. Ha. Ok, fine I see your point. That might just have something to do with it. However I do have the feeling that the issue is not as simple as that.
As humans we all have the basic yearning to be understood. We want to be accepted and appreciated.
The ability to see things from the other person’s point of view opens up much needed channels of communication. Validating their challenges, not dismissing their everyday struggles with “when I was your age” type of lectures, really helps bridge the age and generation gap.
Most teenagers’ complaint number one when it comes to their parents is that we don’t understand.
“You just don’t get it”. How many times have you heard that?
I have been at this mothering thing for almost 15 years now. I do not expect to have all the answers. Some days I really wish I did. Raising three completely different kids has taught me a thing or two along the way.
From my humble observation and experience, there are a few key points to keep in mind when organizing teens.
These might make your decluttering efforts a success rather than another shouting match.
TREAT THEM LIKE ADULTS
A teenager simply hates the fact that mom or dad still talk to him as if he or she were 5 sometimes.
GIVE THEM OWNERSHIP OF THE SPACE
I always tell teenagers that their bedroom is their mini apartment. They should take care of it and treat it as such. It is a reflection of who they are and who they aspire to be.
GET TO KNOW THEM
Yes, really. You think you know your preteen or teenager? Think again. Things change at lighting speed in the teen years. My now almost 13 year old used to be obsessed with Legos. He is all about fancy cars and movie making now.
Ask questions to help them discover what they like about their room, how they use it and what they would like to see change. Be flexible and appreciate their uniqueness.
No need to dive in headfirst into purging, especially if it has been a while since you did this together. No need to push or tell them what to do. Gain their trust that you are there to help make this room work for them.
Yes it is only a bedroom but you can still make some sense out of it. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a child’s bedroom and found clothes in all corners and furniture pieces. Dedicate areas for sleep, homework, clothing, hobbies etc.
CHOOSE FAVORITE HOBBIES
Ask your teenager to pick out their 3 or 4 most favorite activities. Showcase those more. Think of storing the rest in the room or even better, elsewhere.
GIVE CREDIT WHERE DUE
They say you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. No need to be fake since teens can spot it a mile away but appreciate their efforts and celebrate small successes.
MAKE IT FUN
Put their favorite music on and enjoy their company. The day when they move out forever and take all the stuff with them is not that far away.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
If there is one thing teens hate with passion is hypocrisy. A parent whose bedroom is in mayhem all the time cannot demand from their 15 year old to have hers Pinterest- worthy. So practice what you preach please. They will follow. I promise.